Here is what Washington coach Chris Petersen had to say during his pre-spring press conference on Monday.
(Opening statement) “Excited to finally get to this point. A lot of other things have been going on besides football; now we have a chance to go do some football here. I think coach (Tim)Socha, our strength and conditioning coach, has done a wonderful job working these guys and getting them ready to play some football. We’re certainly not in football shape. You can’t be in football shape until you play football. But we’re anxious to finally get out there. We’ve been running around morning, noon, and night to get to this point, so we’ll go out there and get something done tomorrow."
(Will Cyler Miles and Damore’ea Stringfellow be with you for spring football?) “No. I have nothing new to report on that. We’ll just let that play out and see where it goes.”
(How do you develop a depth chart?) “We don’t really want a depth chart. We have a seating chart. We’ve got to go out there and give guys reps, but one of the things that’s going to be great is that we have two quarterbacks. They are going to get more reps than they ever thought about. That’s awesome. I think that’s what happens a little bit in spring ball anyway; there’s going to be a lot of guys that get reps. We have about eight guys right now are going to be … three of them will be out for most all of spring and five others will be very limited in spring. When you go into spring limited with numbers because you don’t have your newcomers yet, coupled with some guys that are injured and are out and those type of things, a lot of guys are going to get a tremendous amount of work.
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“I’ll hit you real quick. It’s a little different than in the fall. Usually I don’t say much about injuries in the fall, but since it’s spring ball who cares, right? So let’s talk about injuries: Dexter Charles, he will be out. Taelon Parson, our wide receiver, he’ll be out. And Kasen Williams. Those guys won’t do anything. They’ll be out there but they aren’t going to be doing anything. Five other guys, Ryan McDaniel, Micah Hatchie, Kevin King, Scott Lawyer, and Cory Littleton, those guys will be really limited, probably no contact most of spring. And that’s just to get us started. We haven’t hit anybody yet, so when that starts you know we’ll lose a few more as well.”
(So Kasen is out?) “Yup. We hope to have him back by summer full-speed, rocking and rolling.”
(What is your spring football philosophy?) “Practices are about a little bit over two hours, somewhere between 2:05 and 2:15. In the fall, for the most part, they are around two hours. They usually vary as the season goes on and you cut them back. But I think this – you’ve got to be smart in spring. This thing is year-round for these kids now. We’re not trying to win spring ball. We’re trying to get these guys ready for the fall. That’s where … how many times you scrimmage, a ‘spring game’ is very scary because your depth is down and maybe you’re playing a guy that really doesn’t need to be playing a lot in a spring game so everyone else can play. So how smart is that? So I will say this – we think very carefully about how much contact we should have, how much scrimmaging we should do, and I think some of that has been cut down over the years.”
(How do you plan to use the quarterbacks?) “They’re going to get more work, like I said, than they ever dreamed. We’ll maybe have two groups, the ones and the twos, and those guys are interchangeable and those groups are interchangeable. So we certainly don’t have any starters at that position for sure. We’ll get them a lot of works and guys don’t need to worry about their rank in the depth chart - they just need to get better each day.”
(How hands-on are you with the quarterbacks?) “I’m kind of an advisor to everything, except for the returners. That’s the one thing I get to coach, punt returners and kickoff returners. So when you see guys like John Ross that run really fast and do good things, I’ll coach that guy. Other than that, coach (Jonathan) Smith will coach those guys. I think the one thing as a staff that’s so awesome in terms of … we’re all in this together and no one tries to have all the answers. We all make those decisions. Certainly the position coach will be the point man and then will ask for input on what others think. It’s never just one guy.”
(With regard to Cyler and Damore’ea, is there a message you want to send to your team?) “This is a work in progress in terms of the culture that we want and how we’re going to do things. There’s been no talk of those guys. They haven’t been here and we’ve moved on, and we’re going. It’s not about those guys, it’s about the guys that are in the room. That’s the message.”
(Any significant changes to your routine that you’ve had to implement?) “Yes. Every single thing. Not right or wrong. We have our way that we’ve operated and so that’s why we’re here, is implementing it. Probably the only thing that hasn’t been new is, they were morning practice guys before we got here and that’s what we were too, so … that’s a big change when somebody goes from afternoons to mornings, huge change. But they’d done that and we have too. But in terms of schedules, the whole strength and conditioning program is completely different. I emphasize again, they did a great job in the past with their style and how they did things. We just know our way and it’s been successful for us, so everything’s been different.”
(How different is the offense and defense going to be from what you scouted of UW last year?) “We’ll see. It’s a work in progress. Our style is very much the same. Justin (Wilcox) was with us a few years back, so the core of the defense started over there in Boise. He and Pete Kwiatkowski were a tag-team on that whole thing, so the style is very similar. I think the style on offense is probably similar as well. Now what we call things, that’s the big thing, trying to incorporate as much language as they’ve used in the past so the kids can minimize their re-learning. But we have to teach it and coach it. It’s a little bit of a blend in terms of language and systems, and certainly there’s new blitzes and new coverages and new plays, but for the most part I don’t think you’re going to look out there and go wow, this looks completely different.”
(On offensive system and putting it in) “We put our system in. it’s a whole part, whole method. Spring ball is usually pretty ugly. It really is. All it takes is one or two guys to not be on the same page and everything looks terrible. So we kind of look at spring ball where you’re really evaluating individual people. And certainly the unit as a whole, that’s minimized. Because a lot of times you have a guy in there because you need him for depth that’s not really going to be in there when it’s all said and done.”
(Clean slate for everybody?) “It really is in everything and I think that’s really healthy for a lot of guys. Guys that have one well in the past have to go prove it again, and guys that maybe haven’t done anything or thought they weren’t getting enough of an opportunity, it really is a clean slate. We don’t know anything. Go show us. And I think that can be a real healthy, good thing.”
(How much do you want to install in spring?) “It won’t be everything, but it will be a lot. One of the things that we’re extremely into is fundamentals. We’re fundamentally based in all aspects. Special teams will be very little scheme. 90, 80 percent all just fundamentals and techniques, and schemes will come later. The same thing on offense and defense. We’ve got to get our scheme in, but the focus and emphasis needs to be on being fundamentally great, and at the end of the day in the fall being assignment sound. We always talk about that, so the fundamental part of things. a lot of people, a lot of coaches don’t even understand fundamentals, what they really are, what they are to their group.”
(On OKGs and finding them) “The OKG thing starts really in recruiting. We try to find OKGs in recruiting and we go from there. … We’re all about the process, about how we go to class, how we’re doing in the classroom, how hard we lift weights and how we treat our teammates and how we treat our coaches and how we treat people around. That’s the whole process. We’ve found that the guys who are doing a good job in the classroom. It’s very easy to tell the guys that are focused and have their house in order, so to speak, are usually are best players as well.”
(Which positions will be most competitive?) “I hope it’s all of them. I don’t really know. Again, I can’t wait to get out there and see us. We haven’t done any football. It’s all weight lifting and running liners. Hopefully we can get lined up tomorrow. But that’s why we’re excited to get out there and really do some football. We’ve watched tape, but we haven’t coached these guys at all in terms of that stuff.”
(Area of team that is a strength?) “The only way I’d be able to answer that is the majority of guys coming back. There are some guys on the O-line although a couple of them are out. The secondary is pretty new. Like I said, we haven’t really thought about it like that. I think after spring we can kind of say, ‘we’re feeling OK about this crew if we stay healthy, and this crew will work out when some of the young guys come in in August to help us.'"
(On Andrew Hudson and DiAndre Campbell coming back) “Again, just talking about that clean start, fresh start. When I first got here, I didn’t know, and we were talking about that and I said ‘hey, maybe we’ll do spring ball and see how this thing looks and see what you guys think, and we’ll go from there.’ I think they’re both really good kids and I’m excited about those guys. They’ve been really good in the weight room, really good in the locker room. Those are the type of guys we’re all about, so I’m anxious to see how they perform on the football end.”
(On team adapting to culture change) “Change is hard. It is hard. But that’s the one thing we know about life – change is coming whether we like it or not. So this is a great life lesson. We can either accept it and embrace it, or fight it and it doesn’t go good for any of us. But I think they’ve done a nice job. I really do. Because it’s hard. Heck, those other guys recruited all those guys here, they had a good way of doing things, then we come in and kind of blow it up and say hey, let’s try it this way. It’s just human nature to not want to change. But they have done a nice job for the most part. Certainly a work in progress. Now we start the football work.”
(Anything different here than at Boise?) “It’s not any one thing. It’s just a bunch of small things. There are emphasis to us that maybe they didn’t emphasize in the past, and certain things they emphasized that we don’t emphasize. It’s just all those little things.”
(Have you pretty well communicated your expectations already?) “I think they’re getting our expectations but it’s an ongoing process, because everything matters, and there’s so many different parts of how we practice. There’s just so many things you just can’t give them everything at once. So there’s still some things we haven’t addressed, just because one thing at a time, or we’re just going to flood them and they can’t get anything. So it is a work in progress. But that’s the fun of doing this. That’s the exciting part about being here, is to implement your system and way that you want to do things.”
(On relationship with Seahawks) “They were great when we first got here. They reached out and we had some conversations. We were able to go over there and watch them practice, which is rare, to me, when you’re practicing for a playoff game. So I’m really excited to further that relationship and learn from the best. That’s what everybody’s trying to do, that idea of constant improvement, and how you can make yourself just a little bit better as an organization, as a person, as a coach, all those things. Those guys have a lot of things figured out over there. I’m anxious in the spring time to go back over there and talk to them and learn from them.”
(What do you expect and what are you looking for out of the quarterbacks?) “A guy that can come back for the second day and not have his arm thrown off because we only have two quarterbacks (grins). You know, just a guy who can execute, who can run the system, who can throw accurately, who’s the decision-maker. It’ll be good. Really what you worry about a lot of the time if you have four quarterbacks in the spring, how do you get all these guys reps? That is a big problem. And a lot of times if you get your roster set how you’d like to have it, you’d probably like to have four quarterbacks every spring … a quarterback in every class. You graduate your old guy and then you have four guys. And four guys is probably too many guys for spring. Three guys? Yeah, you can work with; that’s not bad. Two guys is great for them. They’re going to get all kinds of reps, but you’d like a little more depth as a coaching staff.”
(What are some things you have to have as a Chris Petersen quarterback?) “You have to be a great decision-maker and an accurate thrower. It’s that simple.”
(Any position switches for spring?) “Not necessarily. We might have some guys doing some double duty, though. We’ll just see how that goes down the road. John Ross has played a little bit of defense. We have to maximize our talent, if he can do some things there. I know Shaq Thompson was a heck of a running back in high school, so we’ll see. But he’s a pretty good linebacker, too.”
(On Shaq Thompson as a two-way player and Petersen’s philosophy for two-way guys) “Well, I think, 1, does he give us the best chance to execute these types of plays? I do think it’s fun for the kids, too. When they all of a sudden get to play the other side of the ball. They did it in high school, but they don’t do it now. They usually execute that stuff really well because they don’t want to mess it up, and there’s a new level of intensity trying to figure it out. We’ve just had decent success over the years using some guys in certain packages.”
(On what he says to 18-, 19-year-olds who might feel ‘betrayed’ by coaching change) “That change is a part of life. That change can be a completely and totally good thing. It really depends on your perspective on how you want to look at it, and I know this: We’ve been through this many times and I know when I first became the head coach at Boise, Chris Strausser had left to go to Colorado and our whole line was just devastated. So I called the O-line in, and those guys are kind of a team within a team; they have their own culture. So they were just devastated. I called them in — big ol’ burly guys with tears in their eyes and I said, ‘Hey, you gotta trust me, we’ll get a really good line coach in here,’ and we did. And he did a great job with them; he came from the NFL, and the next year he went back to the NFL. And so there they go again. I call them back in the office and there’s a few less tears, and I said ‘Now, did you learn a lot from this new line coach?’ And they said, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘OK, we’re going to get you a really good one to come back and take you to the next step.’ So the next one was Chris Strausser to come back. I think those guys learn those types of lessons because you get attached to people, but it is what it is. No matter how you look at it, you can determine how well this thing turn out. And that’s true.”
(How many two-way guys did you have at Boise?) "It would be a defensive back that we thought needed to get his hands on the ball more than maybe kick returning, so we’d put him in a package (on offense), whether it was a fly-sweep package (or) at tailback. We did that with Kyle Wilson, who was a first-round draft pick. We’ve done that with some kids at defensive end also at tight end. The DBs always want to come over to receiver and catch the ball, but we tell them there’s a reason they’re a DB — because they can’t catch the ball, otherwise they’d be a receiver (smiles). They usually hate to hear that. But maybe we’ll do some of that. Jermaine Kelly has already been lobbying for receiver. I’ve seen him play in high school; he’s not bad, so we’ll see.”
(Do you remember watching Shaq Thompson in high school?) “Absolutely. Absolutely. Really good player. He’s a good running back, there’s no doubt. So we’ll see.”
(On kicker Cameron Van Winkle, who’s coming off a back injury) “He’s pretty good. So we’ll see. He’s been kicking a little bit He’s completely on track and ready to do some kicking, so hopefully we don’t have any setbacks.”
(On guys who are emerging as leaders) “I think all of that’s going to be determined through spring ball, to tell you the truth. That’s one of the things we’re trying to figure out, who the leaders of this team are. Which is a really big question. I’m kind of waiting myself. I do a leadership kind of group and teach them leadership stuff myself that I’ve researched for a really long time, but I’m kind of waiting before I put that group back (together) to see who should be in this group.”
(Any freshmen coming in early for spring ball?) “We might have one the second part for spring term. … I’m not sure if I can (name him) or not, so we’ll just wait until the second part of spring and go from there.”